Archive for March, 2011

This is gonna be a long one. You might wanna pack a lunch or something.

This weekend was… amazing.

You guys know how ragged out I was, right? Ok, well I didn’t even know the full extent of the toll that the stress the last week in Arkansas had taken until I got to Kansas City. I realized I had been running on about 5 hours of sleep a night for the last 10 days or so, and trust me– I don’t do well with that!

In the car on the way from the airport to the hotel I called Liz to do a quick check-in and she told me that Sarah had had a very rough night. It’s like the weight of the whole experience kind of came crashing down on her and she woke up in the middle of the night feeling really frightened. She was crying in the dark, and asked the nurse repeatedly to please call her mom (who was at the hospital hotel) and let her come to her– AND THE NURSE WOULDN’T DO IT.  I was outraged and hurt so badly for Sarah. The thought of her feeling scared and crying for Liz just undid me.

So it was in that state of mind that I took the stage to do the opening keynote in the Marriott ballroom at the Westside Women’s Conference! Yeah. At that point I fully expected that by the end of my little speech those lovely ladies sitting out there in the audience with their sweetly expectant faces  were going to rush the stage and demand their money back. Possibly while beating me severely about the head and shoulders with their Bibles. So I thought I better just come clean. I basically announced that because of the recent events in my family I was just not as well prepared as I wanted to be, so I would probably have to rely on my notes which I HATE to do. And also I was feeling pretty raw and my emotions were very close to the surface so I totally might turn into a blubbering mess at any moment. It was like, the worst intro of all time– a giant disclaimer that pretty much said, “So happy to be here and oh by the way–THIS MIGHT REALLY SUCK, LADIES!”

And then? God totally showed up.

I can’t even tell you what I said that first night, because I abandoned my notes about halfway through it– but somehow, it apparently all hung together and in spite of myself, people were blessed. I am not even remotely being falsely modest– any good thing that happened that night had very, very little to do with me! The women could not have been kinder. That night I slept like a baby, woke up feeling rested, skipped breakfast and spent most of the day quietly in my room. I finished writing a piece that I had begun while I was in the waiting room during Sarah’s surgery, and by the time I headed downstairs for the closing keynote, I was rarin’ to go! Again, I pretty much made it up as I went along- but you, dear readers, were mentioned repeatedly because I was talking about the power of community and of course, in MY life that has to include our ‘Bloomr Nation! I also showed them a 6 minute video introducing the Magdalene program — and those wonderful ladies then proceeded to go to the table in the back and bought EVERY SINGLE PIECE of Thistle Farms product I had brought! (Which granted, wasn’t a lot because it had to fit into my one extra suitcase, but I was able to bring $405 home for Magdalene!)

The whole weekend was full of so many incredible moments and encounters. Somehow in spite of all of the stress and emotional exhaustion, I really had fun. It tickles me beyond measure that so many of those fabulous women are coming over here and commenting– I feel like I’m bringing them home to meet the family! I thank ALL of you, new friends and old, for your support over these last couple of weeks.

Here is something I started writing in the waiting room during Sarah’s surgery, and finished in my hotel room in Kansas City– I read it during the closing, and I wanted to share it here, too.

I truly love you guys.



We have our own private waiting room.

I think that’s because Sarah is having such an extremely long, complicated brain surgery, but actually it could be because last Wednesday when they first brought her into the ER she had a seizure while they were waiting and my sister Liz went all “Terms of Endearment” on ‘em and grabbed the wheelchair and started barreling through closed doors to get some help despite more than one nurse yelling, “YOU CAN’T GO IN THERE!” as Liz whizzed by. They got their own private room after that.

So now that we’re going to be waiting here for hours and hours, the powers that be probably figured they’d be better off kind of sequestering us from the get-go. This shows tremendous foresight on their part. My family is an extremely polite and well-mannered bunch—unless you happen to be moving too slowly while one of us is having a seizure—but if you assemble a gaggle of us all together in one place it can get kind of loud.

Mostly laughing.

Even under these conditions.

Which is just one of the many reasons I love being a part of this family.

As I sit and look around this crowded waiting room, I’m struck by two things: one is that there are currently no less than 5 laptops being balanced precariously on various and sundry laps—all of them Macs of course (apparently our family tree is an Apple), with the glaring exception of Liz, the rugged individualist. Her husband John, Sarah’s daddy, is sitting quietly beside her, one eye on the door. Every couple of hours a woman comes in with a report from the operating room—maddeningly vague, basically, “Things are fine, they’re still working”—and it’s almost time for another update, so John is watching closely. The second thing that strikes me about this scene is that my brother Jonathan is leaning against the wall with his eyes closed, sleeping standing up like a horse. He’s been here almost 12 hours now. When Liz and her family brought Sarah to the hospital in the pre-dawn hours of this glorious spring morning, Jonathan and his wife Cyndi and their daughter Caroline were already sitting outside on the curb waiting for them. Sarah’s brother Zach in Nevada, and her other two uncles and their families, Matt in Nashville and Joel in L.A., are keeping a long-distance vigil, checking in by phone and Facebook, anxiously awaiting news.

The rest of us have been steadily streaming in all day. There’s Leah, Sarah’s beautiful younger sister up from Houston, ensconced in a pleather recliner with a red fleecy throw draped across her legs—it’s kind of cold in here. Her husband Craig and 2 ½ year old daughter Perri arrived a little while ago. Craig took off work and he’s on Daddy Duty so Leah can be here around the clock. Perri is watching Barney on an iPad, and as I watch Liz watching her I can see that her face has relaxed its tightness for the first time all day. Just for a minute she’s a doting grandmother instead of a worried mother.

There’s my nephew Daniel the Computer Genius sitting over there in one of the two nylon portable sideline chairs he brought in from his car trunk to handle the overflow. He’s eating wasabi peas one by one out of a plastic Fresh Market container and scrolling around on his computer with the other hand, looking for a funny website that he wants to show us. His brother Andrew is here, too, straight from work and still wearing his motorcycle leathers, which never fails to unnerve his mom, my other sister Carolyn. He may be a 36 year old man, but she can’t get over the fact that he still occasionally rides that dang motorcycle after having not one, but two wrecks all those years ago. She’s done some time in hospital waiting rooms herself, so she can’t help scolding him a little, then just sighs and shakes her head—whaddya gonna do. He smiles and hugs her; they’ve done this dance many times before. My Madi is perched on the arm of the not-very-comfortable two-seater sofa languidly leafing through a magazine, pausing only to look up and laugh at something funny someone said, while simultaneously carrying on a nonstop texting conversation with her friends back in Nashville. I’m so glad she insisted on jumping in the car and driving down here with me when we got the phone call about Sarah—it’s comforting to have her close.

There are two faces conspicuously missing in this room—mom and dad, both 95 now, waiting prayerfully at home for some news. Mom would probably prefer to be here with us, but she has to take care of Daddy these days. Her tiny, barely-90-lb. self walking right behind him as he slowly shuffles from the bedroom into the living room, one hand protectively hooked onto the waistband of his pants—like she could do anything about it if he fell! Heart of a lion, that one. We’re taking turns checking in with them regularly, standing out in the hallway when we call them on our cellphone because even though they always put us on speakerphone, we still have to talk REALLY LOUD.

This is the gathering of the tribe, the circling of the wagons. I’m proud to say I would expect no less of us, and I know we would be doing this for any member of our family. But here’s the thing: we’re not the only ones crammed into this waiting room. I’m watching a phenomenon unfold here that both humbles and astounds me. Apparently we have another ‘family’ that I wasn’t even aware of until today. There’s a community of people out there who are connected to us—some directly, some tenuously, and a sizeable contingent who are actually total strangers.

Many of the local ones have shown up in person. Sarah’s fiancé Tom has had several of his co-workers come and sit here with him for a while, bringing homemade cookies and good wishes from the other ones that couldn’t get away. His mom and sister brought pizza and hugged all of our necks, wiping away a few tears and saying how they felt like they already knew us. The woman who owns the company where he works has dropped by twice today. She’s responsible for the wasabi peas we’re all passing around. She brought in a big bag full of healthy snacks to keep us from just eating junk all day, and two cold jugs of sweet tea, the elixir of the South, complete with plastic cups and a big bag of Sonic ice. There are two of Liz’s long-time friends, Nena and Susan, looking around for a clear surface to set down a colorful stack of magazines and one of those fancy edible bouquets of fresh fruit—that’s gonna hit the spot. These two women probably helped change Sarah’s diapers when she was a baby. They’ve had a front row seat as she grew into adulthood—she might as well be one of their own. Susan brought her own place to sit, a rolling walker chair that she’s used since her bout with surgery a short time ago. She sits quietly chatting with Liz, and a couple of times when no one is looking, her head bows and she nervously twists a Kleenex around one of her fingers.

All day long they come and go. Neighbors, couples from church, people from work, parents of children Liz taught in preschool, the mother of the girl her son Zach dated in high school—friends, and friends of friends. They suit up and show up, bringing food and encouragement, sharing smiles and stories of how such and such had almost the exact same surgery and everything turned out JUST FINE.

And from the screens of those five laptops come more messages of hope and love and concern. People from all over the country and even around the world have somehow heard about Sarah and are sending encouragement. Maybe they go to one of the churches where Russ is friends with the pastor– he called a bunch of them to ask for prayer. Or maybe they read about the surgery on Facebook or Twitter, or my blog. For whatever reason and by whatever means, we share a connection now. And because are connected, these people, known and unknown, stop in the middle of their day and offer a prayer for Sarah—my sweet, courageous, about-to-be-a-bride, 29 year old niece with the big blue eyes and the I’m-gonna-kick-this-tumor-in-the-butt attitude.

This is the body of Christ in action.

This is what community looks like.

Love poured out, running down the sides of my soul like butter on pancakes.

And it’s gorgeous.

**Perri with her Aunt ‘Sedda’, before surgery

A Quick Sarah Update– because I’m in a tearing hurry!

Dearest, sweetest readers–

Well, Madi and I got home late last night and I am leaving early tomorrow morning to go to Kansas City and speak at a women’s conference! Quit laughing. I feel like a cat chasing its tail– with a heaping helping of performance anxiety, a side order of  I-don’t-feel-prepared/I-need-more-time and the cherry on top is…. *drum roll* A BIG DANG CANKER SORE ON MY LIP!!! (That’s canker sore, not cold sore– so in other words, nothing will make it go away except time. Yeah. I am looking good all up in here!)

Anyway. *sighs dramatically*

If I actually stopped and thought about how grateful I am for all of the love and prayers you guys have been sending out I would probably just bust out crying– and frankly, I still have to pack. So I’m going to wait and think about that when I get back from KC. In the meantime, here’s the latest report on Sarah from her mom:

New prayer request for Sarah

by Liz Selby on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 4:47pm

Please pray that her spinal fluid flow will regulate and drain correctly so that the shunt can be removed. This was a struggle during surgery and it continues to be….it may keep her in ICU longer. She is much more coherent today as the anesthesia is finally wearing off…..kind of a mixed blessing because she is more aware of the discomfort. She did sit up in a chair this afternoon but it was not comfortable for her. Please continue to pray for her full recovery!

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